For the Love of a God

By: Rosanna Leo


"I bet he was no Eric Lord.” Sheila's eyes grew dreamy, as she made the comparison already in Maia's head. “Such hair. Such height. Such a sculpted chest."

Maia felt herself grow warm at Sheila's enthusiastic description. “We haven't seen his chest. We don't know if it's sculpted."

"Sometimes you just know,” Sheila replied wistfully. “Besides, Maia, he kissed you!"

"He's our boss!"

"He obviously doesn't care!"

"Anyway,” Dino said. “You can't deny the way he looks at you. All steamy, like he's wondering what your daisy looks like."

Maia scowled. “Don't be silly. He's barely said three civil words to me since the pub. If he were interested, don't you think he would have sought me out by now?"

She felt her chest constrict even as she said the words. For two whole days, she'd done little else but mull over Eric's scorching kiss. And as much as she was scared of where it would take them, she'd gone to work the next day dying to see him again. But when he did talk to her, his displeasure just radiated from him. If he liked her, wouldn't he have shown it? Wouldn't he ask her out again? Or did he expect her to show up on the executive floor, offering him her body on a very hefty platter?

As disturbingly tempting as the thought was, she would never have done it.

He probably regretted their kiss as much as she couldn't get it out of her head. And now he clearly loathed seeing her. She reminded him of his temporary mental lapse.

"Anyway,” she continued quietly. “I don't even know if I like him. He took my statue."

"Sweetie,” Dino said, coming over to put his arm around her shoulder. He tipped her head up and looked into her eyes with great empathy. “You can't fuck a statue. At least not at that angle. You'd at least have to tip it onto its back first, and as a conservator, I can't recommend it."

"Argh,” Maia growled as Sheila exploded into laughter. She pushed Dino's arm away. “Let me finish my work. And would you both please stop talking about Eric Lord and the stupid kiss which never should have happened!"

"Maia?"

They all turned and saw Eric leaning against the door to the conservation office. Grinning at her, eyes hooded.

Like one frantic body, Dino and Sheila got up and ran from the office, muttering something about break time. Maia gulped, feeling very small and very hot. She stared at her desk, wishing she could shrink Alice in Wonderland-style and escape into one of its tiny drawers.

"I, uh, hope I'm not disturbing your work,” he said, his voice low and sensual.

She retreated even further into herself. He was so going to fire her.

Eric stared at her, conscious of her great discomfort. And feeling it himself. After two days of trying to clear his head, he'd hoped the sight of her wouldn't unsettle him, but it did. And he didn't even know why. She was a mess.

A gorgeous mess.

She had her dark hair down today, but she had pencils stuck behind both ears, ready to tuck into her hair in case she threw it up into a disheveled bun. Her slim T-shirt was taut against her full breasts, but bore the picture of another silly character. The intellectual Velma from Scooby-Doo.

Surprise, surprise.

She was also wearing beige capri pants which showed off her shapely legs, and an intriguing mole on her right ankle. But the pants were covered in dirt from her work. And she had on yet another pair of plastic crocs. These ones bright orange. He could see her purple toenails through the peepholes in the shoes. To top off the whole crazy ensemble, she was wearing a strand of violet love beads around her neck.

Love beads!

He drew near. Despite himself, he fingered the beads, letting his fingers graze her collar bone. “Do you even own anything from this era?"

He backed away when he realized he'd practically barked the question at her. Gods, he was shaking! And he was hard.

All of a sudden, Eric found it difficult to breathe.

Maia just stared up at him, her eyes wide. “They're love beads. My aunt was a hippy. She gave them to me. I happen to like the color.” Her eyes challenged him. “Are you planning on changing the dress code now? You've changed everything else."

She stared pointedly at his suit. His expensive suit. Eric sniffed. His gold cufflinks probably cost more than her whole wardrobe.

So why did she look so goddamn sexy? He didn't think she could have looked more mouthwatering if she'd been wearing nothing but a thong and heels.

He licked his lips, feeling parched. “I just came to tell you something. I've changed my mind."

She felt a tremor start low in her body. About what? Her job? The kiss? Did he want another one? Please God, let him want another one! She forced a measure of calm into her voice. “Oh?"

He stared at her. Into her. “I'm not sending Eryx to the Hermitage, after all. You can keep your statue."

He let the words sink in for a split second. Then, as soon as Eric saw the corners of her mouth twitch into an awkward grin, he turned and left.

He'd made Maia happy. He could tell. He'd taken away her pain, and his own heart was soaring. And it made him feel better than he'd ever felt before. Now, if he could only trust himself to keep their relationship professional, all would be well. He could finish his work, go back home afterward, and forget Maia Douglas ever existed.

He could go back to being blissfully unaware and uncaring.

But seeing even a glimpse of joy in her eyes was infectious. He wanted to see more of it. Already, only five seconds out of her presence, he was figuring out how to bring her even more happiness.

It wouldn't be hard. He'd made some calls. He knew exactly what sort of torment festered in Maia's little heart.

And he knew how to fix it.

Yes, it was slightly outside his scope, but entirely possible for one with his powers. He could do this one last thing for her and then forget her.

He stood, resolved, and headed toward the museum exit.

Dr. Jim Douglas was about to have a very special visitor.Chapter Seven

At quitting time, Maia sat by herself outside the museum entrance on the top front step, almost as still as a statue herself. A couple of pigeons waddled over to her, and she waved them off with an absentminded gesture. “Shoo, birds,” she said quietly.

She was fighting back tears. Had been fighting them ever since he came to see her about the statue. In an attempt to keep the waterworks at bay, she focused on fiddling with the straps on her Holly Hobby bag. It was a pathetic distraction, but the only one she could think of at the moment.

Eric was letting her keep her statue.

She didn't know what his motivation was, but he'd relented. And he'd been true to his words too. At the end of the day, she'd watched as he'd had a group of workers wheel Eryx back into the Greek gallery and set him back up on his pedestal.

And when the job was done, he'd looked at her with an expression she couldn't read. Maybe it was because he felt badly about the kiss, about leading her on. Maybe he'd simply come to understand her point and respected her father's vision for the gallery.

Then again, maybe he was just playing with her.

All she knew was she was caught up in a maelstrom of emotion. She'd only known Eric Lord for days, but something about him had reached into her core and messed with the wiring in her heart. She didn't know if she was coming or going. All day she'd wandered around the museum during the course of her work, hoping she'd run into him. But dreading it at the same time.

And each time they had spoken, she'd felt the same longing deep in her soul—and in her sex.

Eric Lord rattled her to the core. He shook her very foundations. No man had ever come close to doing so.

She was in danger of falling hard. For the first time in her life.

It would have been much easier if she had her father to talk to ... or a mother.

She stood up and brushed off the seat of her capris. “Go home,” she whispered. “It'll all seem better in the morning."

Maia was about to step down when she felt a huge push on her back. With horror, she realized she was tumbling down the stone steps and could very well crack her head on the bottom. She threw her arms out, trying to brace herself. Holly Hobby flew up into the sky, and Maia seemed to fly past each step in slow motion. Unable to help herself, she squeezed her eyes shut and waited for her brains to smash on the sidewalk.